Small town or single city-contained drama is the stuff of American folklore. It fuels plot lines for countless TV shows and movies alike, both past and present, and generally presents a storyline we can all relate to on some level. Right now, Mandeville, Louisiana is experiencing its own brand of local drama, and a public records request some are deeming “burdensome” lies right at the heart of it.
Mandeville is the home to a political divide that has pitted the Mayor and those on his side of the aisle against various city council members on multiple issues throughout the past few years. Now, a public records request reaching far into the business of the city council members and their offices is causing some to reach out for shelter, or at least a little privacy.
Recently, a Mandeville resident by the name of Guy Stacy submitted a request to the city, asking it to turn over a large swath of documents, including communications made from personal devices but for the purpose of conducting public business. The request reaches back to 2012, and seeks emails, letters, texts, and more. Furthermore, Stacy has specifically requested communications between the council and the Financial Oversight Committee, another group that has found itself at odds with the Mayor’s office on more than one occasion.
At the center of the controversy are Stacy’s intentions, which have not been fully disclosed, and certainly not realized, just yet. Under Louisiana state law, he is not actually required to disclose what he plans to do with the documents, and he’s been cryptic about letting onto anything just yet. For his part, all that Stacy has said is that he has “suspicions” and that he will only share them once his request is completed. There may even be rumors and speculation amongst council members that the mayor has put Stacy up to this, or the two have some connection, after his constant sparring with the council.
For their part, the city council members are raising suspicions by not going along with the public records request in the first place. On the one hand, the request may be burdensome but, on the other, they will like not have to carry out any of the digging and compiling themselves, sparking curiosity about what exactly they might be worried about turning up.
Recently, the council asked City Attorney Edward Deano to dig into state law with regards to questions of the legality of Stacy’s requests, including which they are required to comply with and how they must go about doing so.
While it remains to be seen how this all pans out, the council itself is showing signs of disunity, with at least one member showing disbelief at how vehemently the council is pursuing investigation and fighting the records request. Calling the request for a City Attorney investigation “an embarrassment to the council,” Councilwoman Carla Buchholz says she’s not looking to be a part of the council that fought against transparency and open government, something she says the council members all swore to uphold when running for office.